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    John Adams Privateer Commission Signed "John Adams" as president. One partially-printed page on vellum, 14.75" x 16.5", Philadelphia; Jan. 25, 1800. Document authorizes the "...private armed Ship called the Pegasus of the burthen of Two hundred and three 5/95 tons, or thereabouts, owned by John Townsend & Walter Franklin & Co James Sheeter [?] and Thomas W. Satterthwaite all of the City and State of New York Merchants...mounting Ten carriage guns, and navigated by Twenty Six men..." to "...subdue, seize and take any armed French vessel which shall be found within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, or elsewhere on the high seas..." Countersigned by Timothy Pickering as Secretary of State. Blind embossed seal of the United States at lower left.

    In the first year of his administration, John Adams tasked three commissioners with securing an economic treaty with France in an effort to repair relations. The mission was a failure and President Adams ordered all merchant vessels armed (mostly through letters of marque) for possible engagement against French vessels. Thomas Jefferson and the pro-French, Democratic-Republicans called for the publication of the dispatches from the commissioners in an effort to undermine Adams. The dispatches, when released, revealed an attempt by the French to extort a large loan from the American government, upwards of $12 million, an apology from President Adams for remarks made during a speech in May 1797, and a $250,000 bribe to French foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. The Americans refused and countered with the same terms offered Great Britain in the Jay Treaty, which France immediately rejected. France reacted by expelling two of the three American agents of the commission, Charles Pinckney and John Marshall, both Federalists. The release of the documents blew up in the faces of Jefferson and the Republicans, fueling the fires of anti-French feelings throughout the U.S. The breakdown in diplomatic talks led to an undeclared war, fought almost entirely on the high seas between 1798 and 1800.

    Condition: The document has flattened folds, and some toning. Some weakness and slight separation at some of the folds. Blind embossed paper seal has two small cracks. Overall, it remains very attractive and is boldly signed by Adams.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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